Authors: Karen Kendall
Tags: #All The Groom's Men
“I’m not, dear heart. I’m fond of you, and I don’t want to see you make a mistake. My first husband thought he was ready to settle down with a nice girl, too.” She lifted her shoulders and took a sip of her champagne, leaving a mauve lip-print on the rim of the glass. “He wasn’t.”
“Don’t be. If Laurence hadn’t done me wrong, I’d never have met Mr. Right. Ed and I were married for forty-three years, all of them good. But I won’t lie to you—it’s easier to get it straight the first time.” She smiled at him. “So you make sure that you sow every last one of your wild oats before you go playing house, hmmm?”
Just what, exactly,
a wild oat?
had never seemed to fit together, to Dev. And
meant to plant. If something was planted, then it didn’t grow wild. Where did these phrases come from?
But all he said was, “Yes, ma’am. Thank you for the advice. Now, can I get you a shrimp puff or a Swedish meatball?”
“No, Devon, but thank you. Run along now and play with someone your own age.” She tilted her cheek up and he dutifully kissed it.
As he moved away, he caught Pete smirking good-naturedly at him. “What?” he growled.
“That blonde you hit on a few minutes ago?” Pete chuckled. “I’ve never seen the mighty McKee shut down so hard.”
“Oh, yeah? It might interest you to know that she wants to do me.”
His buddy guffawed. “Oh, clearly. I suppose she told you that right up front.”
“As a matter of fact, she did. So you can save your sarcasm.” Dev swiped a shrimp puff off a passing waiter’s tray and popped it into his mouth.
“You lie,” Pete said. “Like a rug.”
Pete could say things like that to him, because they’d known each other for over a decade—since freshman year in college. All the groomsmen had. They’d all been pledges in the same fraternity.
Dev didn’t respond, because Kylie Kent chose that moment to undulate through the doorway and wink at him.
Women didn’t wink at him. He winked at them. How dare she seize the power of the wink
the one-liner? Things were all out of whack, here. Off-kilter. Askew.
He was the wolf. She was Little Red Riding Hood. They needed to get the rules straight, here.
Dev shoved his hands into his pockets and sauntered toward her with a scowl on his face. She’d plucked another glass of champagne off a waiter’s tray and moved into a corner.
Just as she held it to her lips to take a sip, he reached her and leaned into her space. “Where do you get off?” he asked indignantly.
She raised her eyes to his, amusement in them. “Where? Or how? Use your imagination. I have the same parts as other women.”
Again, she’d rendered him speechless. Wholesome? Had Aunt Mildred really called her
for God’s sake?
“But if you want to know where…” She shrugged. “There’s a utility closet down the hall from the ladies’ room. You can’t miss it.”
Devon found his voice. “You know damned well what I mean. You’ve got a hell of a nerve, Kylie Kent. What makes you so sure I’d do you?”
She tilted her head at him. “You undressed me with your eyes as soon as I walked into the room.”
“So?” Dev said, flushing in spite of himself. “It’s a disgusting male habit I have. It doesn’t make you special.”
“Then you brought me a drink.”
“A more polite male habit.”
“And you talked to my breasts.”
“So you have a nice rack.”
“McKee,” she said patiently, “just admit it. You want to have sex with me.”
“Yeah?” said Dev, outraged. “Honey, I’ve got news for you. I wouldn’t bang you if you were the last chick on earth.”
“That’s your pride talking, not your dick.”
His mouth fell open. How dare she? “You are
full of it.”
“Is that right?” she smiled. She dropped her gaze to his fly, which made him uncomfortable.
of all people. She drank deeply from her glass.
Then she wet her lips and peered up at him from under her lashes. “I’ll bet it’s big,” she whispered. “Isn’t it?”
The breath he was taking turned to a rasp in his throat.
“And I’m so ready for it. Did you know I’m not wearing any panties? What do you think about that, Dev?”
The air he’d drawn in refused to circulate. It stayed there and rattled helplessly in his windpipe.
“I’ll bet you like sex fast and hard…with her ankles on your shoulders…unless her mouth is on you, taking it all the way in....”
And just like that, Devon was wearing an erection as well as a tie to Mark’s rehearsal dinner.
He was furious, and yet he was filled with an unwilling admiration for her as well as lust. She had definitely called his bluff. “You’re a world-class witch,” he said to Kylie.
“I’m really not.” Was there a hint of apology in her tone?
He let out a bark of laughter as he buttoned his jacket and held his glass strategically in front of himself.
“I was only trying to make—” She broke off, looking—of all things—abashed.
He didn’t buy the act for a second. “Make what, darlin’?” he asked sardonically.
She hesitated. “A point.”
That hadn’t been what she was going to say. He knew it instinctively. “Well, you did.” He looked down at his crotch. “You made your point and now I’m stuck with it,” he said bitterly. “Thanks.”
“I’ll help you with that,” she said, evidently emboldened again. “Really. Just meet me in the utility closet in five.”
He gritted his teeth and leaned forward so that his lips almost brushed her ear. He could smell her honeysuckle shampoo, her light floral perfume, the clean scent of her skin. “Not even if the fate of the free world depended on it.”
Kylie gulped the last of her champagne. Was it his imagination, or was her lip trembling?
He didn’t care. “But you go ahead to that closet. You just hop on your broomstick and enjoy yourself, sweetheart. You hear?”
With that parting shot, Dev turned on his heel and walked away without compunction—still horny as all get-out.
KYLIE WAS SHAKING INSIDE, though she wore her smile like armor. What was wrong with her, that she couldn’t even score with a bona fide man-whore like Devon McKee? His reputation preceded him. Everyone knew he had no standards; that given the chance he’d do a day-old bagel.
And yet he’d turned her down, despite the fact that she’d lost her mind and talked to him like a professional phone-sex operator.
The cocktail hour was drawing to a close and soon everyone would take their assigned seats for dinner. She was on the verge of tears. She had to pull herself together.
Kylie lifted yet another glass of champagne—her third—from a waiter’s tray and wobbled towards the ladies’ room again, with the idea of shutting herself into a stall until she’d calmed down. But the entire flock of bridesmaids got there before she did, leaving her no option…except, perhaps, the infamous utility closet.
A quick scan of the hallway told her she was alone, so she walked quickly to the door, pulled it open and slipped inside, feeling around for a light switch as she closed herself in.
Far from being alone with a sexy ex-rocker, she had as her companions an industrial carpet steamer, a cart stocked with cleaning products and bathroom tissue, and a vacuum the size of a Chevrolet.
Kylie leaned her forehead against one of the dingy, pockmarked walls and closed her eyes against the sting of rejection. It wasn’t really Devon’s rejection that hurt, of course—it was the long months of feeling inadequate in her relationship, helpless at the erosion of Jack’s love as drugs and sexual fantasy consumed him.
Devon’s dismissal of her was the last straw. Kylie gulped the entire glass of champagne and set the flute on the cleaning cart. She took a deep breath. Then another.
I will not cry. I will absolutely not cry. I will under no circumstances cry.
I am a strong, fabulous woman with a great job in banking. I will be an assistant vice president soon, then a regional vice president of the bank one day. If I can’t have a fulfilling personal life, then I will have a meteoric career.
There is no reason for me to be skulking in a broom closet!
I will not cry…
Oh, hell. Did salt water stain silk? She was going to ruin her dress. Kylie grabbed a roll of toilet paper from the cleaning cart and unwound enough to mummify her entire head. She buried her face in it.
Judging by the black streaks on the tissue, her mascara was running, damn it. She had to stop this pathetic mewling immediately.
Bank executives did not behave this way.
She straightened her spine and looked upward, blinking rapidly to get rid of the tears in her eyes. She smacked her own cheeks lightly. She cleared her throat.
“I am woman,” Kylie said out loud. “Hear me roar.”
Of course that was the moment when the closet door opened, and Devon McKee stood staring down at her, his dark eyebrows raised quizzically.
“Roar?” he asked.
Really, why couldn’t the floor swallow her up?
“I heard some sniffling,” he said, “but definitely no roaring.”
“Figure of speech.” She tried to brush past him—but he didn’t move.
Instead, he closed the door behind them, forcing her to step back. “What’s the matter, darlin’?”
“Nothing. I—I need to go find my seat. They’ll start serving dinner any minute, now.”
“Word of advice?”
“What?” she asked gruffly.
“Clean up your face a little better. It looks like a kid’s finger painting. Here, let me help.” He cupped her face in his hands and rubbed gently under her eyes with his thumbs. He brushed at her cheeks with his fingers. And then he dabbed at her mouth with a piece of the bathroom tissue.
Mortifying though the situation was, the warmth—and was it tenderness?—of his hands sent shivers of renegade pleasure down her spine and brought heat to the surface of her face and neck.
“That’s better,” Devon said. “Not that you weren’t the most gorgeous human finger painting alive.”
She managed a self-deprecating snuffle.
“Now, do you want to tell ol’ Dev why you’re crying in this closet?”
“Not crying,” she muttered.
So, do you want to tell me why you’re squeezing joy and happiness out of your eyes in secret, then?”
She shook her head.
“I see. Well, I just want to make sure that all this, um,
isn’t because of something that a nasty pecker-head said to you a few minutes ago in defense of his own ego.”
“Of course not,” she said emphatically.
“I’m so relieved. I mean, this really sets my mind at ease,” said Devon, frowning at her.
He looked around the closet. “It’s clear to me, in that case, that you came in here to have fun with your broomstick, as the nasty pecker-head suggested.”
Kylie’s lips quivered in spite of her mood.
“But it’s gone,” he pointed out. “So…”
She met his eyes, which were twinkling ruefully. “The carpet steamer was more than adequate.”
“Ah. Need a cigarette now, do you?”
He patted his pockets.